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U.S. Supreme Court

Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway Co. v. Haber, 169 U.S. 613 (1898)

Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company v. Haber

No. 268

Argued January 27, 1898

Decided March 14, 1898

169 U.S. 613


The Act of Kansas of 1891, c. 201, as amended and as it appears in 2 Gen.Stats.Kansas, 1897, 761, c. 139, relating to bringing into the state cattle liable or capable of communicating Texas, splenic, or Spanish fever to any domestic cattle of the state and providing for the trial of civil actions brought to recover damages therefor, is not overridden by the Act of Congress of March 19, 1884, 23 Stat. 31, c. 60, known as the Animal Industry Act, nor by the Act of March 3, 1891, 26 Stat. 1044, 1049, c. 544, appropriating money to carry out the provisions of the above act, nor by section 5258 of the Revised Statutes, authorizing every railroad company in the United States operated by steam, its successors and assigns,

"to carry upon and over its road, boats, bridges, and ferries all passengers,, troops, government supplies, mails, freight, and property on their way from any state to another state, and to receive compensation therefor, and to connect with roads of other states so as to form continuous lines for the transportation of the same to the place of destination,"

as Congress has not assumed to give to any corporation, company, or person the affirmative right to transport from one state to another state cattle that were liable to impart or capable of communicating contagious, infectious, or communicable diseases.

Whether a corporation transporting, or the person causing to be transported, from one state to another cattle of the class specified in the Kansas statute should be liable in a civil action for any damages sustained by the owners of domestic cattle by reason of the introduction into their state of such diseased cattle is a subject about which the Act of March 28, 1884, c. 60, 23 Stat. 31, known as the Animal Industry Act, did not make any provision.

The provision in the Kansas act imposing such civil liability is in aid of the objects which Congress had in view when it passed the Animal Industry Act, and it was passed in execution of a power with which the state did not part when entering the Union, namely, the power to protect the people in the enjoyment of their rights of property and to provide for the redress of wrongs within its limits, and is not, within the meaning of the Constitution nor in any just sense, a regulation of commerce among the states.

A state statute, although enacted in pursuance of a power not surrendered to the general government, must in the executions of its provisions yield in case of conflict to a statute constitutionally enacted under authority conferred upon Congress, and this without regard to the source of power whence the state legislature derived its enactment. chanrobles.com-red

Page 169 U. S. 614

Neither corporations nor individuals are entitled, by force alone of the Constitution of the United States and without liability for injuries resulting therefrom to others, to bring into one state from another state cattle liable to impart or capable of communicating disease to domestic cattle.

Although the powers of a state must in their exercise give way to a power exerted by Congress under the Constitution, it has never been adjudged that that instrument, by its own force, gives anyone the right to introduce into a state, against its will, cattle so affected with disease that their presence in the state will be dangerous to domestic cattle.

Prior cases reviewed and held to proceed upon the ground that the regulation of the enjoyment of the relative rights, and the performance of the duties, of all persons within the jurisdiction of a state belongs primarily to such state under its reserved power to provide for the safety of all persons and property within its limits, and that. even if the subject of such regulations be one that may be taken under the exclusive control of Congress, and be reached by national legislation, any action taken by the state upon that subject that does not directly interfere with rights secured by the Constitution of the United States or by some valid act of Congress, must be respected until Congress intervenes.

An act of Congress that does no more than give authority to railroad companies to carry "freight and property" over their respective roads from one state to another state will not authorize a railroad company to carry into a state cattle known, or which by due diligence may be known, to be in such a condition as to impart or communicate disease to the domestic cattle of such state.

If the carrier takes diseased cattle into a state, it does so subject for any injury thereby done to domestic cattle to such liability as may arise under any law of the state, that does not go beyond the necessities of the case and burden or prohibit interstate commerce, and a statute prescribing as a rule of civil conduct that a person or corporation shall not bring into the state cattle known, or which by proper diligence could be known, to be capable of communicating disease to domestic cattle cannot be regarded as beyond the necessities of the case, nor as interfering with any right intended to be given or recognized by § 5268 of the Revised Statutes.

If Congress could authorize the carrying of such cattle from one state into another state, and by legislation protect the carrier against all suits for damages arising therefrom, it has not done so, nor has it enacted any statute that prevents a state from prescribing such a rule of civil conduct as that found in the statute of Kansas.

The case is stated in the opinion. chanrobles.com-red

Page 169 U. S. 615


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